The annual media dialogue ended with various remmendations and observations by stakeholders. Indeed, since the event kicked off more than three years ago, a lot of issues can be said to have been looked into.
In the past one year alone, a more proactive policy framework has been instituted by stakeholders to ensure that the media industry is realigned with the transformation that is unfolding.
As the Prime Minister put it rightly during the conclusion of the event, one of the most sustainable solutions needed to be given serious thought that can be used in order to prop up the industry, lies with channeling investment into the sector.
Perhaps one can also add that the sector does not only need investment , generally, but the right investment mix in order to deliver on certain agreeable outcomes in line with Rwanda’s past, present and future socio-economic context.
One of the items that were discussed was the need to operate a basket fund for the sector. I am imagining that stakeholders are thinking about establishing some kind of a trust fund that can act as some sort of public seed capital to kick-start the sector towards attracting bigger forms of private sector investments needed for its turn around.
Very good idea. However, some serious thoughts need to be given to the sustainability of operating such a special trust fund for Rwanda’s media industry.
Stakeholders would need to come up with more convincing concepts, in terms of thinking through very coherently, such an idea before putting it before government or any other agency for consideration for funding.
However, media stakeholders should bear in mind that various trust fund models are already in place that can readily be used to provide insights on how to go about setting up one specifically for the media.
For starters, such a trust fund must be formed with clear intention of ensuring that it acts purely as a catalyst, and boosted by the public sector to attract private capital in a sustainable manner.
If the idea is to have in place, say a US$5 million trust fund, then government can be requested to commit the first round of seed capital, of say US$2 million, that can be used to attract other forms of additional capital, say from donors.
However, the fund management issue must be addressed now. At the moment, there are various reputable accounting and quality assurance firms that can be hired to manage such a fund.
Clear operational guidelines for the trust fund must be instituted. For instance, the fund managers can develop an intervention matrix for the fund. Where is intervention most needed for the struggling sector?
The trust fund can also bring in capacity building in terms of assisting struggling media outlets to formulate credible business plans.
Through a very transparent screening module that is premised on competition, the winning media projects can be identified and shortlisted media promoters of such ideas then advanced seed equity capital and capacity building by the fund.
The main idea would be to have such forms of support to be used to leverage additional capital from the private sector.
If the idea is to set up the first locally owned private TV station in Rwanda, something that is actually long overdue, the promoters of such a venture should be given seed capital, plus business capacity by the trust fund, to augment what they have.
They are then assisted by the fund to craft convincing long term business plans so that once the business is up and running the issue of repayment of such support along with sustainability of such a venture is addressed in a more convincing manner.
The idea would be to incubate, say ten or less companies out of several, and set them towards a path of self sufficiency by enabling them to attract private capital in order to ensure that such businesses are run along strict commercial footing.
Rwanda’s media industry is virgin by any measure and an investment of just US$5 million, if used well, can attract bigger forms of private capital.
If we are to say that public seed capital of US$5 million can attract say an additional private capital of, say US$15 million on the first year, of its set up then, without a doubt, such form of investment mix can, indeed, boost the workings of the sector that is currently struggling to stay relevant to the ongoing transformation.
The author is an editor with The New Times